Westphal Sweeps Both Races at Infineon Raceway to Extend Series Lead Sonoma, Calif. (July 6, 2008) -- Bay Area native Jeff Westphal solidified his claim to this year's Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires by securing a...
Westphal Sweeps Both Races at Infineon Raceway to Extend Series Lead
Sonoma, Calif. (July 6, 2008) -- Bay Area native Jeff Westphal solidified his claim to this year's Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires by securing a magnificent double victory this weekend at Infineon Raceway. The 21-year-old also secured maximum points by qualifying on the pole and snaring fastest race lap in each of the two 30-minute races.
Fellow Californian Robert Podlesni finished second on both days to maintain his hopes of reclaiming the title he won in 2006, while Arizona teenager Nick Freytag confirmed his emerging status by taking a pair of third-place finishes on the challenging 2.52-mile road course.
"It was a great weekend and it definitely helped me in the championship," said Westphal, from San Carlos, Calif. "I had all my sponsors here too, and they got a good kick out of seeing me do well, so it was fun."
Westphal began his perfect weekend by posting the fastest lap in qualifying for the first race on Saturday. He immediately took off into the lead with his #39 Cacci Construction/TNT Demolition/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen and controlled the pace impressively to take the checkered flag 4.381 seconds clear of Podlesni's #84 Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars/Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen.
Freytag slipped to seventh after making a poor start from fourth on the grid in his #9 Sodi Kart/G-Phactory/PR1 Van Diemen, but soon began to work his way through a thrilling four-car battle comprising PR1 teammates Shaun Modisette (#26 Carson Trailer Van Diemen) and Max Hyatt (#22 Performance Drink Van Diemen), along with leading Masters contender (over 50 years of age) Chuck Hulse in the #21 Silicon Salvage/DFR Van Diemen and top Expert (aged 35-50) James Hakewell in his self-tended #88 Van Diemen.
Freytag finally passed Modisette for third place at the Turn 11 hairpin with seven laps remaining, while Hakewell also put on a charge and profited to take fourth place when Modisette ran briefly off course in Turn Eight. Modisette and Hulse remained in close contention until the finish.
Sunday's race was even more intense. Westphal once again took the pole but Podlesni remained in his wheel tracks, then mounted a challenge following a full-course caution after a hub failure pitched series coordinator Les Phillips' #89 Swiss Motorsports Mygale heavily into the wall at Turn Three. Phillips was fortunate to escape unhurt.
Soon after the restart, Podlesni squeezed past his rival at Turn Four. Undaunted, Westphal redoubled his efforts and returned the favor a little more than a lap later when he repassed Podlesni under braking for Turn 11. He then held off a determined challenge to score his sixth win of the season -- by a scant 0.695s.
"Robert was running very fast too, so it was hard to extend any kind of a gap," said Westphal, who extended his championship lead to 19 points over Podlesni with four races remaining.
"It was a really good race," said Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif. "We were back and forth a couple of times but he did a good job. We struggled on Saturday but we improved the car and I'm pleased with the weekend."
Freytag also was delighted after taking his second successive podium finish and crossing the line just over three seconds behind the race winner.
"I set two goals for the weekend -- to get two podiums and get third in the points," confided Freytag, 17, from Paradise Valley, Ariz. "It was a big ego boost to achieve both my goals. I feel like it's given me a lot of confidence and I'm really looking forward to carrying this over into the next races at Miller Motorsports Park [in Tooele, Utah on August 2/3]."
Hulse again won the Masters class by finishing a strong fourth, while Hakewell also capped a successful weekend by securing his second straight Expert class victory and taking fifth overall.
"I had a lot of fun," said Hakewill, who reaped the reward of some engineering support from Ron Chisholm by qualifying a career-best third on Sunday. "I'd have liked to be on the podium but we've definitely made the car better. I need to work a little on my fitness and try to be a bit more consistent, but we're getting there."